When the weather finally starts to chill out, all I want to do is eat something warm and cinnamon-y. My folks have been nagging me to make cinnamon rolls again. Been there, done that. Instead, I looked for something similar that’ll please my folks, and give me something new to make.
I’ve been seeing pull apart bread for what feels like ages all over the internet. They’ve always intrigued me but I never really thought about making one. It reminds me a little of monkey bread, another one I’ve seen everywhere. The fact that these recipes are both interactive seemed like a good idea. Little did I know I was in for a bit of a challenge.
First of all, the recipe itself is a little strange to me. It’s a bread recipe, which I am familiar with, except this one has a different method. The dough is very wet at first and it’ll feel like it’s never going to come together. I was initially concerned midway through the recipe when I saw how sticky it was, and that I barely needed to knead it. The dough actually reminded me of two things: an egg bread, and the aforementioned cinnamon rolls. The only difference was that the cinnamon roll dough wasn’t this sticky (it handled like a dream. I swear I’m not talking about a car). As I moved further along in the process, it did come together.
Relieved from knowing the dough turned into dough, I moved forward onto the next steps. Let’s talk about this topping for a minute. Cinnamon sugar is super simple to make, and does this thing where whatever it’s on is basically automatically delicious. I don’t know how that works but it does. This recipe calls for a lot. A LOT. Joy (the mastermind behind this recipe) says to use it all. Look, I was as skeptical as you when I read that. I thought about it for quite some time (read: two minutes) and ended up holding back. Listen to Joy, people. Use it all. When stacking the slices of dough encased in sugar, a lot of it fell off. It kind of defeats the purpose of using all of it but make sure you slap on all that butter, too. Sprinkle the leftover sugar on top if you must but use it all up.
After I got through the messy cinnamon sugar stage, it was time to pop the slices in the pan. I have a regular loaf pan (a 9×5), which is what the recipe called for. Considering my measuring skills suck, my rectangle of dough wasn’t the exact size in the recipe, which means my strips weren’t sliced into six. I had five strips that turned into eight stacks, which ended up backfiring on me a little bit. I gently maneuvered my stacked and sliced sugared strips into the pan and let it rise. It looked like a beautiful, sugary accordion. So lovely. I popped it in the oven and proceeded to clean up my kitchen.
About 10 minutes in, I hear sizzling. Confused about the noise (because since when does bread sizzle?), I turned on the oven light and checked on the bread through the oven door. Pieces of the bread had come out of the loaf pan and onto my oven racks and floor! I dropped whatever I was doing, grabbed the longest pair of tongs in my house, and popped the oven open. I was able to rescue the piece that fell on the rack but the one on the oven floor ended up giving me grief. Since it was covered in sugar, it burned all over my oven floor. It smelled like burnt sugar for a while, too. I guess that was my fault but I wasn’t expecting that to happen! I cleaned up my oven after I finished baking, though. A real pain but it happens.
Even after all of that, the bread continued to give me grief. It did not want to get out of the pan. Like at all. I buttered it twice, and it still stuck. Again, all that sugar was to blame. It caramelized and hardened a little while it was cooling. After several knife runs and turns upside down, I got the bread out with a few minor injuries (read: the bread fell apart in some places).
Despite the fact that it gave me some trouble, the bread came out absolutely delicious! It didn’t even last the day in my house; it was that good. The top was super crunchy because of all that sugar. The bread itself was light and fluffy, which I guess has to do with the odd dough method. Kudos to that, to be honest. It actually reminded me a lot of a Dominican sweet I can only get when I’m over there called ‘pan dulce;’ which literally translates to sweet bread, and that’s exactly what they are. And like I correctly assumed, it was fun to peel off each layer before devouring it. My folks peeled them off in chunks, and all you heard were approving noises come out of them while they had their mouths full.
I’m not one to repeat recipes but even though this bread gave me a little trouble, I’d make it again. At least I now know how to handle it!
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 ounces unsalted butter
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- ¼ cup water
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Sugar topping:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
- 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted until browned
- In a large mixing bowl (I used just the bowl of my stand mixer) whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set aside. Whisk together the eggs in a small bowl and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt together milk and butter until butter has just melted. Remove from the heat and add water and vanilla extract. Let mixture stand for a minute or two, or until the mixture registers 115 to 125 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, it should be a little warmer than body temperature.
- Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and mix with a spatula. Add the eggs and stir the mixture until the eggs are incorporated into the batter. The eggs will feel soupy and it’ll seem like the dough and the eggs are never going to come together. Keep stirring. Add the remaining ¾ cup of flour and stir with the spatula for about 2 minutes. The mixture will be very sticky.
- Place the dough in a large, and well greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm space and allow to rest until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- While the dough rises, whisk together the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg for the filling. Set aside.
- Melt 2 ounces of butter until browned, and set aside. Grease and flour a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Set that aside too.
- Deflate the risen dough and knead about 2 tablespoons of flour into the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
- On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out. The dough should be 12-inches tall and about 20-inches long. Use a pastry brush to spread melted butter across all of the dough. Sprinkle with all of the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Emphasis on 'all
- Slice the dough vertically, into six equal-sized strips. Stack the strips on top of one another and slice the stack into six equal slices once again. You’ll have six stacks of six squares. Layer the dough squares in the loaf pan like a flip-book.
- Place a kitchen towel over the loaf pan and allow in a warm place for 30 to 45 minutes or until almost doubled in size.
- Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Place loaf in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the top is very golden brown. The top may be lightly browned, but the center may still be raw. A nice, dark, golden brown will ensure that the center is cooked as well.
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 20 to 30 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the bread and invert onto a clean board. Place a cake stand or cake plate on top of the upside down loaf, and carefully invert so it’s right side up. Serve warm with coffee or tea.
Don't worry if the dough doesn't roll out to exactly the size stated in the recipe. I didn't and it came out fine. Sorta.
Make sure your loaf is completely cooked through. The bread should be super brown, like almost on the verge of burning. Not only does that leave you with a super crunchy crust, but it gives the bread time to cook through without sacrificing taste.
Cinnamon Pull Apart Bread barely adapted from Joy the Baker